"This morning we attended the Farewell Ceremony at the care center for all of the children who were heading home with their new families. It was a wonderful time of sharing, laughing, and oohing/aahing over all the children being adopted who were dressed in their traditional Ethiopian clothing. Mikayla looked stunning wearing her beautiful dress! The nannies served us a traditional coffee ceremony, complete with popcorn, and we also enjoyed cake from Kaldi's Coffee. Dr. Fikru shared a few words at the beginning in honor of the adoptive families, and said a prayer for all of the children who were leaving and the futures they have ahead of them. A medical team from the U.S. had just arrived (sponosored by Holt) and came to watch the ceremony prior to making the drive down to Durame for some volunteer work at the Holt medical clinic. All of the children (toddler age and up) were brought down to watch the farewell ceremony and enjoy some cake with us - they blessed everyone by singing some wonderful songs before we left (I think I may have a few on video... but still sorting through it). At the end of our time, each adoptive family had the chance to share about their time in Ethiopia and thank the nannies and Holt staff for their hard work in caring for the children. Micah was "nominated" to say the final group prayer before we all left, and prayed for the endurance of the Ethiopian staff in caring for the children, as well as all of the children currently in care - that each and every one of them would soon have a family to call their own. Beautiful."
Set up for the ceremony"After eating lunch and playing back at the hotel for awhile, those who wanted to go shopping dropped our kids off back at the care center one final time to play and take naps until we returned. Mikayla was a bit upset about this, and we went back and forth as to whether or not one of us would just stay at the hotel with her, but in the end we knew it would be nice to experience one last outing in Ethiopia together as a couple and purchase some items we could bring him in honor of our daughter's beautiful country to share with her later. I think the nannies enjoyed having a few final hours with the kiddos too :) The shopping trip consisted of a stop at the Leprosy Hospital (definitely the highlight) where we purchased most of our goodies. The people there made everything by hand, and it was truly a miracle to watch them work! We also stopped at a few little shops, and a coffee store. The aromas in the coffee store were so strong that it was impossible to stay in there very long - I have never inhaled such STRONG coffee fumes in my life. By the time we arrived back to the care center to retrieve our daughter, she was happy and playing. We were glad we made the decision to take that last outing together." :)
I didn't actually write in my journal on this day, as most of it was spent packing our suitcases. We came home with two LESS suitcases than what we brought over, thanks to everyone who sent donations with us! I spent most of the day doing the packing, while dad entertained Mikayla outside and in the hotel lobby. Kathy and I went to the bead store to make some final purchases (the pic of this was posted under Day 3) and enjoyed the cool, rainy weather. This was the first day since we arrived that it was rainy outside.
After the bead shop, we sent Micah out for a final run to the Chinese restaurant for take-out, and took naps in the hotel room. We actually encountered a truly special moment in the hotel room with Mikayla just after nap time. Due to the fact that our hotel room was on the right side of the building, and located on the top floor, our window directly overlooked Holt's Care Center next door. At one point, we noticed Mikayla (sunglasses on and all) just peering out the window and watching the care center. There was a nanny outside on the balcony at one point, and Mikayla just stood there quietly for quite a lengthy period of time... watching. It's almost like she knew she was leaving and wanted to have a final look. Who knows what she was thinking, but it was a special moment that we were lucky enough to catch on camera...
During the late afternoon, one adult from each family went to the care center a final time to retrieve the children's visas. It was surreal to actually hold my daughter's passport in my hands, as well as her visa paperwork that would grant her entry into the United States. We were also given back the family welcome albums we sent which was a nice surprise because I didn't think we would ever see it again. I am happy to have it so I can save it for Mikayla - it was the first thing we ever sent to her after receiving our referral. In addition, Holt gave us a DVD of the Farewell Ceremony and a DVD of some video footage of our trip. Very cool!
We headed to the airport around 6:30pm and battled through the craziness of Ethiopian checkpoints and security. By the time we boarded our flight (about 10pm) we were pretty wiped out. Mikayla was giddy with excitement about the TV screens located on the back of each chair :) We tried to explain to her that we were on an airplane, but have no idea if she actually knew we ever flew in the air. She probably just thought we were on a bus for a long period of time! It wasn't long into that first flight that we all fell asleep...